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7 Fun Things to Do in Indianapolis: Explore the Heartland of America

7 Fun Things to Do in Indianapolis: Explore the Heartland of America

Indianapolis, the capital city of the state of Indiana, is a bustling metropolis full of rich culture and history. Whether you’re passing through on a business trip or planning a vacation, there are countless fun things to do in Indianapolis that will leave a lasting impression. In this blog post, we’ll explore seven fun things to do in Indianapolis that will delight and entertain visitors of all ages.

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1. Visit the Indianapolis Zoo

The award-winning Indianapolis Zoo is home to over 1,200 animals from around the world, including rhinos, elephants, baboons, California sea lions, and a Pacific walrus (Pakak), one of the six zoos in the country to have one. The exhibits are well-designed and immersive, and plenty of interactive activities for kids and adults alike.

This sustainable zoo specializes in animal conservation, so you feel good visiting, even though the animals take care of the happiness and feel-good factors. 

otter-at-indianapolis-zoo

One thing you won’t want to miss is the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center. In this unique zoo feature, the amazing creatures come up to the glass to interact with you.

And if that wasn’t enough, this zoo has rides (carousel, family coaster, skyline ride, and white river junction train)and animal feedings to enrich your already great visit. Feedings include giraffes, flamingos, budgies, and lorikeets.

giraffe-feeding-indianapolis

The Indianapolis Zoo is open year-round, but hours vary depending on the season. General admission tickets cost $32.75 for adults and $28.75 for children. Save money on certain days by buying your tickets online. Parking will cost you $10.

indianapolis-zoo-sky-ride

2. Tour Eiteljorg Museum

This museum showcases the art and culture of the American West, with two floors of exhibits featuring native art, cowboy and cowgirl memorabilia, and contemporary Western art. Guided tours are available at Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, and the museum also hosts special events and exhibitions throughout the year.

eiteljorg-museum-entrance

The American West Gallery’s Art had gorgeous paintings by artists such as Olaf Seltzer and the master himself, John J. Audubon. Grab lunch at the Museum Café, offering a menu full of tasty items, such as a Ratatouille Torte, Almond Apricot Chicken Salad, and Chipotle Buffalo Chili.

Admission is $18 for adults and $10 for youth, all pre-purchased.

equestrian-statue-at-eiteljorg-museum

3. Pay Your Respects at the Indiana War Memorials

What a big surprise! I had no idea how patriotic Indianapolis was or that it had so many stately memorial offerings. Second only to Washington DC, Indy has the most monuments and memorials dedicated to veterans. 

indianapolis-patriotic-memorial

The stunning complex of Indiana War Memorials honors the sacrifice and service of Indiana’s veterans and military personnel. Highlights include the Indiana Soldiers and Sailors Monument, the World War II, and the Korean War Memorial. The four corner statues of the impressive memorial represent Cavalry, Artillery, Infantry, and Navy.

Each is free to visit and open year-round.

soldiers-and-sailors-fountain-indy

4. Eat a Delicious Meal

No trip to Indianapolis is complete without sampling some of the city’s delicious cuisine. St. Elmo Steak House, which has been serving up mouth-watering steaks since 1902, is known for its epic shrimp cocktail, a signature dish. You’ll smell the freshly grated horseradish sauce long before it arrives at your table.

Pro Tip: Try the fabulous Elmo Coke with vanilla-infused bourbon, Coca-Cola, and maraschino cherry. 

st-elmo-shrimp-cocktail
Photo from St. Elmo Steak House website.

Mesh is a sophisticated eatery with chef-inspired creations and a fantastic Applewood Chicken Salad with spiced pecans and cranberry-poppyseed dressing for lunch or the White Cheddar Bacon Burger on a brioche bun for dinner.

My favorite meal came from Napolese Pizzeria, where the pizza recipes are to die for, but the appetizers and salads are equally as impressive. The Broken Yolk pizza gets my vote (Margherita with runny egg yolk), and the Baked Capriole Goat Cheese with homemade Focaccia was a tangy marriage of creamy goodness. 

baked-pasta-at-napolese-pizzeria-indy

I could eat the House Chopped Salad all day long. This tasty dish starts with red-leaf lettuce and is topped with chickpeas, tomatoes, roasted peppers, Pancetta, and pepperoni. Crumbled gorgonzola and red vine vinaigrette complete the wow factor.

salad-in-indianapolis

5. Play at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

This massive museum, the country’s biggest and best, is a wonderland of interactive exhibits and activities for kids of all ages. They have both indoor and seasonal outdoor displays. The enormous dinosaur outside the museum, seeming to peer in, should give you an idea of how excellent this experience will be.

Highlights include a Dinosphere exhibit, historic carousel, planetarium, and space exploration exhibit. Children’s Museum of Indianapolis also hosts special events and programs throughout the year.

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is equally impressive for children and adults with its active theater, Take Me There: Greece, Beyond Spaceship Earth module, ScienceWorks, Treasures of the Earth exhibit, and programming.

As an adult, I was in awe of the five-story, 3,200-piece blown glass menagerie Fireworks of Glass by Dale Chihuly. My daughter, Taylor, preferred the Power of Children. These displays tell the powerful stories of Ryan White, Ruby Bridges, Anne Frank, and Malala Yousafzai. Bring a tissue due to the sensitive nature.

chihuly-exhibit-childrens-museum-indianapolis

Numerous magazines and websites continually rank the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis as one of the top children’s zoos in the country, if not the top. Tickets run between $20 and $28 for adults and $19.00 to $22.50 for children, depending on the date you wish to visit. Purchase two weeks in advance for deep discounts.

6. Get Outdoors in Indy’s Urban Greenspace

Indianapolis has several beautiful parks and gardens, including White River State Park, Eagle Creek Park, and the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s 152-acre garden. These green spaces offer peaceful respites from the city’s hustle and bustle. They are perfect for picnics, hikes, and outdoor adventures.

indy-urban-park

White River State Park, viewed from my JW Marriott windows, boasts 250 acres of green space. The space connects downtown to significant tourist attractions, plus includes a live music venue and the scenic Central Canal and zoo.

I do declare — Indy is one of the “greenest” cities I have ever visited.

Indianapolis-urban-area

7. Stay at the JW Marriott

The luxurious JW Marriott Indianapolis boasts stunning views of downtown Indy. It offers world-class amenities, including an indoor pool, a fitness center, a spa, and a rooftop bar. The 33 floors of rooms are spacious and well-appointed, with floor-to-ceiling windows, and the staff is attentive and friendly. The hotel offers a Starbucks, Italian restaurant, and sports bar concept. 

jw-marriott-lobby-indy

The JW Marriott is connected via skywalk to the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium. Rates vary depending on the season and availability but generally start at around $250 per night.

Not So Fun Fact: Onsite parking will set you back $52 per day.

jw-marriott-indianapolis

A Bonus You Won’t Want to Miss

Indianapolis is a majorly artsy city. You’ll find the best of Indy on Mass Ave., the eclectic and popular heartbeat of town. From the dancing girl crosswalk to art installments on the ground, streets, sides of buildings, and even a scented alley, you will be more than wowed by them. There are also some incredible photo-ops, like the Indy platform, where you can view the city in the background.

Pro Tip: Stop by Stout’s Shoes while on Mass Ave, the nation’s oldest shoe store, circa 1886.

A few murals to chase around town to find are Frenchie, Love Conquers All, Dream Big, DJ Topspeed, and KISS Kitties. The Indy Cultural Trail is another fun idea to check out.

indy-photo-op-spot

Indy Has A Lot!

Indianapolis is a city full of surprises and adventures. From exploring the great outdoors to immersing oneself in the city’s rich history and culture, there are plenty of fun things to do in Indianapolis that will appeal to every type of traveler.

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Read more about the Midwest in these posts:

Fun Things to Do in Hays, KS

Midwest Cities You’ll Want to Visit

The Best Things to Do in Janesville, WI

Check out posts from other travel writers at Bloghouse:

What to do in Indianapolis

An Inspirational Trip to Idyllic Indianapolis

The 10 Types of Travelers Who Should Visit Indianapolis

10 Things You Can’t Miss in Indianapolis

The Ultimate Vegan Guide, Indianapolis, Indiana

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Susie Davis

Sunday 27th of August 2017

Thanks for such a positive and thorough description of our city! I think it checks all the boxes - sights to see, downtown walkability, family friendly, affordable. Hope you come back soon.

FYI. St. Elmo's has a sister restaurant named Harry and Izzy's with a similar menu, but open at lunchtime.

MelodyPittman

Monday 4th of September 2017

What a sweet email. Thank you so much. I thoroughly enjoyed it and can't wait to visit even more of Indiana. Yes, I read about that one. Yum!!

Locally Sourced Napolese Artisanal Pizzeria in Downtown Indianapolis | The Yums

Thursday 24th of August 2017

[…] the kickin’ part of downtown Indianapolis┬álies an upscale pizza joint serving local farm-to-table ingredients that dress up our favorite […]

What Makes Indy Cool and Why Does It Taste So Good?

Sunday 13th of August 2017

[…] and Taylor, a mother and daughter writing team I met at Bloghouse, raved about St Elmo Steakhouse. They said they went because it was ranked as one of the top 15 steak houses in America. They also […]

Miranda

Thursday 10th of August 2017

I'm just as surprised with #3! I've heard their zoo is really fantastic, and the children's museum is really cool (even for an adult!), but I wouldn't have guessed Indy had war memorials.

P.S. those cupcakes look so cute and delicious!

MelodyPittman

Wednesday 16th of August 2017

Thanks for reading. I know, the war memorials were a total shocker. We loved walking around the downtown and photographing them all. Best kept secret I guess. ;)

Skye

Wednesday 9th of August 2017

Wow there really is so much to see. Who knew? You covered a lot in this trip for sure. I would definitely head to St Elmo's for one of those award-winning steaks and spend some time in the green spaces.

MelodyPittman

Wednesday 16th of August 2017

Oh yeah! And that fire-breathing Shrimp Cocktail. LOL ;) Thanks for reading.

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